Some in Raymond, population 1,600, call the judge a friend.
“We are laden with grief,” said Mary Lou Lott, a Friends of Raymond member. “He is a vital part of our community and we love him dearly.”
DeLaughter, also a member of the Friends of Raymond, has dedicated himself to historic preservation and serving civic organizations, she said.
DeLaughter, a popular figure in Raymond for more than a decade, faces one count of involvement in a bribery scheme, one count of obstruction of justice and three mail fraud counts of conspiracy.
He goes to trial in April. If convicted, he faces 85 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine.
Lott describes the judge and his wife, Peggy, as “a southern gentleman and lady.”
DeLaughter, 54, has been suspended from the bench since last March. He often held court in the historic Raymond courthouse.
A Civil War buff, DeLaughter had his Civil War-era house moved from Champion Hill to Raymond about two years ago.
He gained national acclaim for his 1994 prosecution of a white supremacist in the 1963 slaying of Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers. He was appointed to the bench in 1999.
Lott, who has known DeLaughter for about 10 years, said she wants to hear his side of the story, which he has not yet told. In the end, she thinks he’ll be cleared. “I am sure of his innocence,” she said.